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Verdi – Il trovatoreTrovBregenz

Manrico – Carl Tanner
Leonora – Iano Tamar
Il Conte di Luna – Zelijko Lucic
Azucena – Marianne Cornetti
Ferrando – Giovanni Battista Parodi

Musical Director – Thomas Rosner
Stage Director – Robert Carson
Set Designer– Paul Steinberg
Costume Designer – Miruna Boruzescu
TV Director – Francois Roussillon
Lighting Designer – Patrick Woodfoffe

Bregenz Festival
– August 2006

Opus Arte OA 0974 D
– 155 minutes

Caruso is credited with remarking that all that is needed for a successful performance of Il trovatore are the four greatest singers on earth; the opera contains some of Verdi’s greatest and most taxing arias.  However, to present it on the giant floating stage at Bregenz something more dramatic in the way of scenery than Caruso envisaged is obviously called for. 

The libretto's numerous references to fire inspired Robert Carson’s production, set in an enormous industrial construction – something between an oil rig and a petrochemical refinery - a cathedral to the might of energy.

Of course, on TV close-up we see that this monster has feet of clay, or more accurately that it built on rather garishly painted plastic dough.   The superstructure, storage containers and oil drums reveal their origins, though the army of bright blue uniformed workers are real enough, leaping athletically around the set and singing their hearts out.  Every singer is equipped with a microphone headset, that is apt to mask facial expression, not a flattering accessory.

So much for the visible elements – the sound is even more complicated.   At Bregenz the orchestra is housed in an indoor location removed from the stage and everything is too far removed from the audience for natural sound to carry.   Everything is miked, and presumably mixed and balanced before it is heard.    

So maybe one no longer needs the greatest singers on earth?   Certainly I don’t suppose any of the principals taking part would make that claim for themselves, but they are extremely good, and two – Iona Tamar and Zelijko Lucic - are superb.  Their sequence of duets in the final part of the opera (Il supplizio) is quite hauntingly beautiful.   

The opera ends in a conflagration accompanying the culmination of Verdi’s blazing score, which would put most Gotterdammerungs to shame.  

This is one occasion when the armchair viewer must suspend disbelief, concentrate on the distant shots and will oneself into imagining the spectacle through the eyes of the live audience.

The effort will be repaid – this a production of real significance, which will stand repeated watching and listening.

Serena Fenwick